BT's Bland is new media top dog

BT's chairman is ranked above newspaper editors, cabinet ministers and even Bill Gates in the latest power list of media movers and shakers

BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland is the sixth most powerful individual in the UK's media sector, according to Monday's edition of The Guardian.

This year's Media Guardian 100 list puts Bland behind only Rupert Murdoch, BBC director-general Greg Dyke, Tony Blair, Tony Ball -- the chief executive of BSkyB -- and advertising titan Sir Martin Sorrell when it comes to cultural influence, economic clout and political power.

Several other senior figures from the new media scene appeared in the Media Guardian 100, although none as high as Bland.

Bland was credited for lowering BT's debt mountain, and for making the company give broadband a much higher priority. Even though chief executive Ben Verwaayen is generally seen as the real driving force behind BT broadband push, Bland shares the credit for having chosen Verwaayen to succeed Sir Peter Bonfield.

It is now seen as very unlikely that BT will attempt to become a broadcasting company that generates its own content, despite Bland's past experience as chairman of the BBC. However, the company is still important to the media world because of broadband. BT is aiming for five million broadband connections by 2006 -- such an audience could help the Internet to become a major platform for broadcasting content.

Richard Parsons, chief executive of AOL Time Warner, was ranked 9th on the list, one behind Bill Gates. The Guardian felt that the success of Microsoft's MSN Web sites, on top of the company's grip on the operating system market, makes Gates a significant beast in the UK's media jungle.

Sir Christopher Gent, Adam Singer, Barclay Knapp and John Pluthero -- chief executives of Vodafone, Telewest, ntl and Freeserve respectively -- were all also included, illustrating the important role that technology and the Internet play in the world of the media.

Cabinet ministers Patricia Hewitt and Tessa Jowell were also included in the list thanks to their involvement in the Communications Bill, which will change the way telecoms, TV and radio are regulated.

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